I appreciate that the White House’s budget proposal is aimed at creating economic growth. For the low-income families we serve, this kind of growth is critical to achieving a better future for all.
However, the proposed budget does nothing to address the degree divide, which is one of the greatest threats to our economic vitality. In fact it systematically disinvests in higher education by proposing the elimination of subsidized loans, drastically cutting work study, eliminating national service models that help people earn money for college, and slashing other programs that help fund higher education.
Economists and policymakers have been warning us for years that our ability to compete in the global economy will depend on growing our educated workforce. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has projected that 65 percent of the jobs in this county by 2020 will require some postsecondary education.
College remains out of reach for so many Americans as the cost of college skyrockets. Just in the last decade, the cost of tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities has increased by 40% after adjusting for inflation. Families are being priced out. And those who are able to attend college are often forced to make difficult choices that risk their chances of graduating or achieving other milestones. College grads weighed down with debt are less able to buy homes or start families—things that help fuel our economy.
And the demographics of the country are changing. More and more young people come from low- and middle-income families. More than 50 percent of the nation’s public school students, for example, are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
In order to achieve the robust economic growth as a country that we all desire, we are going to need this generation to participate in higher education at increasing levels. Let’s make it easier, not harder for students to achieve the higher education they need, and our country needs, to create the strong economy we all want.